Low Back Muscle Strain Treatment

Low Back Strains

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Proper treatment of a lumbar muscle strain is important to achieve optimal results. Once you know the cause of your symptoms, you can proceed with treatment. It is important that if you are not sure of the cause of low back pain, that you are evaluated by a physician. There are low back conditions that may require more urgent treatment.

Once you have been diagnosed with a low back strain, often called a lumbar muscle strain or a musculoligamentous injury of the lumbar spine, you can proceed with the following treatment steps.  Even with proper treatment, relief after a low back strain can take weeks or months to resolve, so it's important to be patient when searching for the best treatment.


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The first step in the treatment of a lumbar muscle strain is to rest the back. This will allow the inflammation to subside and control the symptoms of muscle spasm.  Older treatment recommendations were for complete bed rest, however, that is not a current recommendation.  While activities should be gentle and limited, it is a good idea to keep moving.  People with a lumbar strain should avoid lifting, prolonged activity or aggressive sports, but gentle movement and activity is a good idea.  While it is important to rest the injured muscles, it is just as important to not allow the muscle to become weak and stiff. Once the acute inflammation has subsided, some simple stretches an exercises should begin.


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Two groups of medications are especially helpful in treating the acute symptoms of a lumbar back strain. The first of these are anti-inflammatory medications. These medications help control the inflammation caused by the injury, and also help to reduce pain. There are many anti-inflammatory options, talk to your doctor about what medication is appropriate for you.

The second group of medications commonly prescribed for the treatment of lumbar strains are muscle relaxing medications. Again, there are several options that you may discuss with your doctor. These medications are often sedating, so they need to be used with care. For patients who have back muslcle spasm symptoms, these muscle relaxing meditations can be a very useful aspect of treatment.

In general, narcotic pain medications should be avoided.  While the pain associated with a strain injury can be severe, these medications can have serious side-effects.  Certainly non-narcotic pain relieving medications should be tried first, and if not successful, you should discuss with your doctor the next steps in treatment.

Stretching & Physical Therapy

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Proper conditioning is important to both avoid lumbar strains and recover from this injury. By stretching and strengthening the back muscles, you will help control the inflammation and better condition the lumbar back muscles. The exercises should not be painful. Without some simple exercises, the low back muscles can become "deconditioned," or weak. When the low back muscles are weakened, it is very difficult to fully recover from low back injuries.

It is also important to understand that even if you are in good physical shape, you may have weak low back muscles. When you have a low back muscle injury, you should perform specific exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles of the low back, hips and abdomen. These exercises are relatively simple, do not require special equipment, and can be performed at home.

Alternative Treatments

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Alternative treatments include massage, acupuncture, magnet therapy, natural remedies, and others. Many patients find relief with these treatments, despite the fact that scientific data to support these treatments may be lacking.  On a positive note, most alternative treatments are very safe and have few side-effects, and are therefore reasonable options to consider if you are struggling to find relief.

Further Evaluation

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If your symptoms continue to persist despite treatment, it is appropriate to return to your doctor for further evaluation. Other causes of back pain should be considered, and perhaps x-rays or other tests (MRI, CT scan, bone scan, laboratory studies) may be needed to make an accurate diagnosis.  However, in situations of typical low back pain, imaging studies are generally not performed in the first six weeks.  Only if symptoms persist beyond that point should imaging tests be considered.

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